Friday’s column is a paean to the 1989 Beastie Boys album that came out 25 years ago today. There’s even a local angle: the Dust Brothers, who co-produced, met at the Claremont radio station in 1985.
You might say this column has been in the works for years. I learned about the duo’s Claremont connection back in 1998 or so when researching notable people who attended school in the Inland Valley. A year ago, I read the “33 1/3″ book on “Paul’s Boutique,” which goes into great detail on its making and tells about the KSPC connection. But that was around the time of the album’s 24th anniversary. (In hip-hop terms, the timing was ill.) So I took notes on a paper napkin (!) of page numbers for easy reference, put the napkin in the book and made a note on my calendar for 2014, learning delightedly that the anniversary coincided with a column day.
And here I am with a column. See, I only make it look easy.
Sunday’s column tells a story about the above photograph from an early Nirvana concert as I interview the guy at the far left in the Angry Samoans shirt. He’s Bob Durkee, a punk fan who was connected to the Pomona scene during the ’80s. I let him talk about that and about how he ended up in an iconic photo.
You can listen to audio of the 45-minute concert here.
Reader Richard Nunez of Pomona reminds us that after the April 6, 1974 California Jam concert at Ontario Motor Speedway, another mega-concert was planned for that Aug. 3: Summer Jam West.
he bill: Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and the Beach Boys, plus Joe Walsh and Jesse Colin Young, with “special guest” The Band. What a show that would have been.
Ticket price: $12.50, a bump from California Jam’s $10. (Nunez was at Cal Jam too.) Nunez’ bill is for $13.25, including 75 cents tax, from a Ticketron outlet at Sears in Pomona.
Evidently ticket sales were soft and the show was canceled. It was CSNY’s only L.A.-area date in their summer tour. A few days later, roughly the same lineup appeared in New York and drew a reported 75,000.
“I kept the ticket instead of getting my money back,” big spender Nunez says. “Now that would have been a great time. You should have been there lol.”
Although there was talk of more concerts at the speedway after Cal Jam, I don’t know that any took place until Cal Jam II on March 18, 1978.
California Jam, a rock festival that took place April 6, 1974, at Ontario Motor Speedway, drew 200,000 people. My Sunday column hits some of the high points. Allen Pamplin of the California Jam Fan Club on Facebook sent me multiple photos. Here are 10. The two above originally came from Alan Lancendorfer.
The above four are uncredited. The bottom four were contributed by promoter and emcee Don Branker. Rare Earth, the day’s first band, is performing in the next to last image. A roadie adjusts a microphone in the final image.
Me and the late John Harrelson, May 27, 2011, outside the Press in Claremont. As I wrote in my tribute column last week:
My favorite memory is of an afternoon we spent at the Press, first at lunch, then outside, perched on the window ledge, watching the world go by as he smoked. The Press’ satellite radio was playing rock oldies, and we played “Name That Tune,” competing to guess the artist and title before the other, then trading opinions and trivia about the bands.
A man named John Thomas posted this photo to Harrelson pal John Neiuber’s Facebook page last week, following my column’s appearance, with the notation “Name That Tune.” Neiuber says: “He told me he was outside listening to you guys, enjoying the banter, and just happened to capture the moment.”
I was so surprised and touched, I about fell over when Neiuber walked up to me and told me about the photo’s existence. I have a vague memory of noticing someone had just taken our photo, someone Harrelson knew, but I quickly forgot the whole thing. That someone thought to take this photo and then thought it worth preserving — and knew who I was and connected it to my column two years later, for that matter — blows me away. Thank you, John Thomas.
Now if only I had audio! But that’s okay. I have my memories.
(That’s a copy of a Penguin edition of Mark Twain’s short stories by my side, incidentally.)
Above, Harrelson at the Press, 2012.
John Harrelson, a singer-songwriter and guitarist from Ontario, died June 26 at age 62 of heart failure. Harrelson, a Chaffey High graduate, was a fixture at the Press in Claremont (both as a performer and a customer) and performed all over the world. He’s also the subject of a documentary making the film festival rounds, “Dead Man Rockin’,” referring to his near-death experience in 2006.
I’ll have more on him later this week because we were friends and he deserves the ink. In the meantime, a viewing will take place from 2 to 5 p.m. Tuesday at Draper Mortuary in Ontario. Harrelson’s Facebook page is one place to check in if you knew him, as is the “Dead Man Rockin’” page.
* Update: I’ve written an obituary about Harrelson. A column will be forthcoming.
** Update: And here’s Wednesday’s column.
Below is a 2007 video from the Press of Harrelson performing one of his catchiest songs, “Evangeline.” Pretty sure I was in the audience that night.
Not only did the band perform in La Verne in 1987, they performed a private concert in Mount Baldy on July 7, 1990. You can find the setlist and more on the band’s website, which says in part:
“This was the first headlining show of the Ritual era. It was a special invite-only show in an outdoor amphitheater in Mt. Baldy, CA. Jane’s Addiction played at one end of a pool with fans around and inside the pool itself. Peter DiStefano, guitarist for Porno for Pyros, attended this show and can be seen in some video footage standing on the diving board.”
Footage was used in the video for the song “Stop!” The photo above is one of several taken by Tod Goldberg; see more on his blog. The show flier, from the band’s amazing website, is below; as you can see, the location was kept secret and concertgoers were bused in. There are at least two songs on video on YouTube. Here’s “Pigs in Zen.”
Ray Collins’ best showcase was almost certainly the 1968 Mothers of Invention album “Cruising With Ruben and the Jets,” a silly but sweet tribute to doo-wop music and Mexican American culture on which the latter-day Claremont resident, who died Dec. 24, sings lead on every song, often in falsetto.
I had only owned the first three Mothers albums, which I appreciate more than actively like, but after Collins’ death, when I learned of his extensive involvement in “Ruben,” I bought a copy (at Rhino Records, natch). I like it.
A sort of concept album, the sleeve notes tell the “story of Ruben & the Jets,” as if they were a real but amateur band, one based in this area (as the Pomona-founded Mothers were).
One line: “There was already 11 other guys in the band so when he quit nobody missed him except for his car when they had to go to rehearsal or play for a battle of the bands at the American Legion Post in Chino.”
Band members are said to listen to oldies at Ruben’s house before going “to Burger Lane,” which in what may or may not have been a coincidence was the name of restaurants in both Ontario and Pomona.
The Wikipedia page for the album has interesting details on its recording and subsequent history. And here’s a link to a video of the Collins showcase “Anything” from that album, with a photo montage.
I’ve heard over the years that the band Van Halen performed at the old Walter Mitty’s club out in Pomona’s Westmont area before they got famous. The topic resurfaced when I interviewed the couple at nearby Westmont Hardware last month.
A Google search brings up the online Van Halen Encyclopedia, which has an entry on the band’s club days.
Van Halen is said to have performed at Walter Mitty’s Rock & Roll Emporium on six occasions in 1976: March 24 and 25 and April 7 to 10.
The site says of those days: “Their sets consisted mostly of cover tunes at first and they would sneak in originals as often as they could.”
The Pomona club rates an entire paragraph: “At Walter Mitty’s in Pomona, CA, which had a capacity of 300 (Van Halen was said have squeezed 1000 people into the place on some nights), the band witnessed a man die from stab wounds during an argument between two bikers about whose bike was faster while the band played You Really Got Me. After this incident, the band decided to move their amplifiers roughly one-and-a-half feet away from the wall so they could hide behind them when fights broke out. The club was reportedly closed a short time later due to an increase in violence.”
Besides its many L.A. dates, the band is also known to have performed at the Bogart in San Bernardino on two occasions, Sept. 18 and 21, 1976.
A 2012 story on music.MSN.com about the band’s reunion drew a comment from Leslie Ward-Speers, the daughter of Walter Mitty’s owner:
“…For a couple of years, you played several times at my dad’s small bar in Pomona, CA. My father’s name is Larry Ward and he owned Walter Mitty’s across from the General Dynamics Company on Mission Blvd. When ever you guys came to play a weekend gig at daddy’s bar, it was standing room only. The local college students from MT SAC and Cal Poly bombarded the bar to hear your outstanding and unique sound. All of the other bands that played in Daddy’s bar were playing what ever the current hits were on the radio. But not you guys. I knew then that you were good and that success was just around the corner for you.”
Did anyone happen to see them in Pomona, or remember Walter Mitty’s?
The Claremont fixture and Pomona native was 75. In 1964 Collins invited Frank Zappa to join his Pomona R&B band, the Soul Giants, which became the Mothers of Invention, a ground-breaking avant-garde rock band.
I wrote his obituary today and my Friday column fleshes out the story. Collins was press-shy, but he granted me an interview in 2009 for a column. If you met him, knew him or otherwise wish to comment, please do. (Photo by Peter Barwick outside Claremont’s Pizza N Such from the Ray Collins Fan Page.)
* Obituaries have appeared in the New York Times and Rolling Stone.